Star Wars: The Last Jedi saw the return of Yoda as a Force Ghost, but while that scene is one of the best-received of the movie, it's conspicuous for who isn't there in this original trilogy reunion with Luke: where's Obi-Wan Kenobi?
In Episode VIII, a full puppet Yoda imparts to his pupil one final lesson: as masters they are what their students grow beyond - they are the past and Rey is the future. It's a beautiful moment, bringing another layer of legacy to a film that's all about the past and what it means for the present and future. And yet, as wonderful as it was to see Master Yoda again, what that moment is really asking for is a return from Luke's other teacher.
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Obi-Wan was Luke's first mentor and the bond they share runs deeper than that of Yoda's with Luke. This isn't to suggest Yoda is any less important to Luke, but Obi-Wan, even in death, played a hugely influential role in Luke's life - and Luke in his. Obi-Wan's voice was even heard for only a second in The Force Awakens, with new dialog recorded by Ewan McGregor, which created an expectation he'd be back here. As such the decision to not include the character in this instance, while made for practical reasons, remains this film's biggest missed opportunity.
Why Obi-Wan Would Have Been A Better Force Ghost Than Yoda
As already mentioned, Obi-Wan Kenobi was Luke's first Jedi Master, however brief their time together may have been. He was who delivered Luke to his aunt and uncle, and continued watching over him from afar like some hermit guardian angel. Come the events of A New Hope, it's Obi-Wan who introduces Luke to a magical and exciting life that exists beyond the dusty wastelands of Tatooine. Crucially, it's through Obi-Wan that Luke (and audiences) first learn about the Force and the Jedi who can tap into its power, as well as a backstory for the nightmarish villain, Darth Vader (albeit only true from a certain point of view). And it's Obi-Wan who gives Luke his father's weapon - the Skywalker lightsaber that has played such a pivotal role in the sequels.
Obi-Wan is arguably the most important person in Luke's life, offering him guidance even in death: the trench run on the Death Star would not have been a success if Obi-Wan hadn't been with Luke in spirit, guiding him to trust in the Force; Kenobi later appears to Luke as Force Ghost - the first character ever shown doing so in all of Star Wars - and instructs him to seek out Yoda to receive additional training. This role has been further expanded in the new canon, with Marvel's Star Wars comics revealing Obi-Wan left a set of journals he wrote during his exile on Tatooine; through these - found in a box labeled "For Luke" in Obi-Wan's desert homestead - he continues passing on the hard-won wisdom of a life filled with both victory and defeat.
It's evident that while Yoda is the one who takes Luke from Rebel to Jedi, Obi-Wan is the one who truly guides Skywalker. He's more of a father figure than Anakin ever was or could be (there's a reason that in the Expanded Universe, Luke named his son, Ben). All of this highlights the greater thematic purpose to including Kenobi; in those moments of doubt on Ahch-To when Luke is about to burn the ancient Jedi texts, having Obi-Wan appear to Luke instead of Yoda would not only have made better sense both narratively anf emotionally, tapping into a relationship that goes back to the very beginning.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Obi-Wan Kenobi release date: Oct 20, 2018